Authors: Lisa Harrison Jackson
I first must acknowledge the most important figure in my life: Father God, you did it again! Thank you for the gift!
Nate Jackson Jr., my leading man, thanks for your endless support and loving me in your special way.
My babies, Chandler and McKinley, you inspire me to be a great example of a woman and mom.
I'd like to especially thank the following: my editor, Glenda Howard; writing buddy, Kim Louise; the Harrison girls, my sisters Cathy Banks, Valerie Ollison, Diana Johnson, Carla Harrison and Gayla Johnson; special friends Joyce Parker, Apostles Melvin and Sharon Milon, and Karen Hypolite; and my first “real” fan Louise, who tracked me down on my first book,
Finally, You and Me
, to offer words of encouragement. Thank you all for believing in me.
God bless everyone!
aycee screamed out as she slid across the sidewalk leading to her front door. With one shoe left behind on the walk, she tripped headfirst into the azalea bushes.
How had she slipped? Had anyone seen? Was it the three apple martinis she'd drunk an hour ago? The questions flooded her mind.
The bush's bristly limbs scratched her arms and legs as she pulled herself from its hold. Mortified, she looked around to see if anyone had witnessed her fall. To her relief the neighborhood was as quiet and still as usual.
Kaycee stood upright to examine the damage. She ran her fingers across a scratch on her arm and winced at the scraped flesh and curling skin. Licking her finger, she rubbed the tender spot. She looked as though she had been jumping in a pile of leaves; they clung to her hair and clothes. She even had one in her mouth. Spitting it to the ground, she straightened her skirt and looked back to where it had all started.
She spotted her Manolo Blahnik stiletto on its side resting next to a shadowy object.
“What is that?” she said out loud as she hobbled over to find out.
The porch light provided just the right amount of light for her to seeâ
“Dog crap!” she cried out as the smell of fresh dog feces floated to her nose.
Her eyes rolled in disgust when she recognized that the dog next door had done it again!
Since she'd moved into the house a month ago, she'd noticed that the dog used her garden to do its business more often than not. The proof was in the little mounds of fly-covered poop scattered on her yard, decorating her sidewalk and, on occasion, appearing on her front steps.
The culprit was the black-and-tan Yorkshire terrier that she'd spotted trotting around the yard and yipping at everything from bees to birds. Its owner never seemed to keep it contained, although it had a collar, not to mention a fenced backyard. After the first week, Kaycee had decided to put an end to the problem, but whenever she attempted to make contact with her faceless neighbors, they weren't there.
She looked at her five-hundred-dollar shoes and sucked her teeth in disgust. She had never worn them until this evening.
Most of her life, she had concealed her feelings when it came to things she had no control over. Her MO was to keep the peace. Be professional, pleasant and polite. A lady. But tonight, all that training was getting tossed out the window.
She thought about how she could have been seriously injured had the azalea bush not broken her fall. To add insult, her brand-new sandals were ruined. Anger slowly rose from deep within.
“Somebody is gonna pay for this!” she shouted, as if making a point, although no one was around to hear it.
She glanced over at the neighbor's house and her mouth fell open in surprise. Through the partially open slats of the blinds at the side window, she could see a faint glow coming from the television set. Finally, someone was home!
Gathering her purse and keys while avoiding another step in the poop, Kaycee unlocked her own huge oak door. Her first thought was to try and calm down, but when she turned on the light in the foyer and got a closer look at the heel of her shoe caked in feces she didn't want to play nice, she wanted to get even.
Without even stopping to take off her other shoe, Kaycee hobbled into the kitchen, and headed straight for the pantry where she kept her old plastic grocery bags. She carried the bag back out to where the waste lay. Kneeling down and putting her hand in the bag, she picked up the poop.
“I got something for you, neighbor!” she said out loud with a mischievous grin. Holding the bag in one hand at arm's length and her shoe in the other, Kaycee marched lopsidedly across the lawn to the house next door.
Now they'd know what it felt like to be crapped onâliterally. She would hand over the package and demand a resolution before she reported them to the neighborhood association or filed a complaint with the police.
She pressed and held the doorbell. To her disappointment, the pace of the ring mimicked that of a grandfather clock, producing a set pattern regardless of the caller's urgency. Immediately after the patterned rings concluded, she mashed the button a second time.
Her shoe-covered foot tapped anxiously as she waited for someone to answer. Many choice words swam through her head.
Inconsiderateâ¦rudeâ¦foulâ¦pestâ¦dog poundâ¦pellet gun
, yet when the door opened, the words escaped her. A half-clothed man stood before her.
Kaycee's jaw dropped at the vision. Shirtless and handsome, this looked like a man built for holding on toâbroad shoulders, defined arms, sculpted chest, firm abs and powerful legs. The only words that came to mind were:
God knew what he was doing when he made this man!
His strong arms crossed before his expansive chest. “Yes?”
At the sound of his rich baritone voice, her eyes traveled upward to the face of a deliciously handsome man. That face was striking, with chiseled features set in bronze, mysterious dark eyes, broad, yet regal nose and full lush lips. Even his facial hair was perfect: a neat mustache and a patch of hair covering his square chin. He was like a fine wine, aged to perfection, distinguished in every way.
“Uh, yeah,” she coughed, wishing that she could disappear into the floor. She could have kicked herself for standing there gawking like a schoolgirl.
Somehow his half-dressed appearance had caught her by surprise killing the energy she had built up moments earlier as she'd contemplated giving him the bag and its contents.
“Is there something I can help you with?” he asked.
Reluctantly she held the bag up. “I think this is yours.”
He took the bag and peered inside before making a face. “What the hell?”
“My thought exactly,” she interrupted, her anger resurfacing. “
was on my front walk just now and I could have hurt myself when I fell after slipping in it.” She held the soiled shoe before his face. “These are new shoes that could be ruined.
is what I've been finding in my yard and on my sidewalk almost every day since I've moved here and I would like to know what you're going to do to resolve this issue.”
He closed the bag and held it out for her to reclaim. “I don't understand what a bag of dog crap has to do with me.”
Kaycee ignored his outstretched arm. “The fact that
own a dog that seems to think my yard is his personal lavatory has a lot to do with you.”
“Wrong dog,” he replied flatly. “You said
, my dog is a female.”
Kaycee's eyes narrowed. “Male, female, what's the difference? I know that it's your dog because I've seen it in your yard and I've seen it in mine, too.”
He crossed his arms before him and looked Kaycee up and down.
“Look, miss, I understand how you feel about finding this on your doorstep and I'm sorry that you fell,” he began. “But I think you could take some of the blame.”
Kaycee's brow furrowed and her head cocked to the side. She didn't understand how she could have contributed to what just occurred.
“Why do you think I should be blamed for your dog's behavior?”
He pointed to the one shoe she was wearing. “You have to admit that the heel on that shoe is high. It looks very uncomfortable and I'm sure it's even more awkward to walk in. I know they are in fashion these days, but could it be that you fell because you're not used to walking in them?”
Kaycee's mouth dropped open in disbelief. She couldn't believe that he was trying to skirt the issue by blaming her fall on her inability to walk in a pair of high heels. The pair she had on were only three inches high. Back in the day, she'd easily sported four and a half inches. No, she knew how to walk in a pair of high-heeled shoes!
With narrowed eyes, she placed her hands firmly on her hips. “Look, my shoes are not the issue here. Your dog is. I would appreciate it if you would keep her out of my yard or at least clean up behind her. You know there are rules in this subdivision.”
“Miss, I know the rules of this subdivision.” His tone was just as cold. “And I know that one of them is no disturbing the peace, especially late at night.”
His words stung her ears like grinding metal, and she held back the words she wanted to say. Her plans for a resolution folded as the communication impasse got way out of hand.
“Look, all I'm asking you to do is respect my property by keeping your dog out of my yard and we won't have a problem.”
When he failed to reply, Kaycee just shook her head.
“Just keep your dog out of my yardâperiod. If you don't, I won't be held responsible for what happens.” With that said she turned on her one heel and stomped away.
“Is that a threat, miss?” he called out behind her into the darkness.
“Take it however you want!” she shouted over her shoulder.
Once inside her house, Kaycee groaned. What a mess! First her shoeâliterallyâand now who knows what kind of retribution he had in store for her.
Speaking of which, the image of him standing in his doorway made her tremble. She had always been a sucker for handsome men, and this one fit that bill. With brawn and beauty like his, she wondered why she hadn't seen him before. She shook her head to shake the memory of him from her mind. She shouldn't be thinking of any man for that matter. After all, it was only three short months ago that she had ended a four-year relationship, which had turned out to be a life-saving decision. Now she had a new life and a new focus. It was all about her. A man would do nothing but redirect that attention and she wasn't about to let that happen.
Inside her house, Kaycee kicked off the good sandal and unzipped her skirt and slid it down her hips, tossing it across the room. Tonight had been a total disaster, going from bad to worse.
This had been Kaycee's first opportunity to present her business, Soulicious Gourmet Desserts and Event Planning, to a popular restaurateur since graduating from the small-business program.
Everything that could go wrong did. First, she couldn't find the meeting place. The Map Quest directions had dropped her off at a dead end so she'd had to call her contact, which was pretty embarrassing. Then, when she got there, she'd left her brochures, price sheet and catalogs in her car. By the time she got everything situated, the chocolate-covered strawberries that she'd brought for sampling had begun to melt.
Although the look on the owner's face was a mixture of boredom and disgust, Kaycee didn't give up. Like a trooper, she finished her presentation only to get a don't-call-us, we'll-call-you type of response before being shown the door. Afterwards, she'd stopped at a nearby lounge for a drink to forget about the whole night.
Then she'd arrived home only to get into it with her neighbor. Oh, her neighbor! He was handsome. Bump handsome, the man was
She wondered how old he was. He looked mature, but she couldn't guess his age.
Turning off the downstairs light, she went to her bedroom and headed directly toward the beveled floor-length mirror. Gazing at her reflection, Kaycee wondered how she looked to him.
Her five-foot-nine build was average for a black womanâwell-proportioned and round in all the right places, the way the brothers liked it as she was frequently told. Her breasts were a comfortable size-C cup and rested high.
Stepping closer to the mirror, she ran her fingers through her freshly cut natural curls. The style, with brown and gold highlights, flattered her delicate features: cognac-brown eyes, high cheekbones and a flirty dimpled smile.
She yawned. It had been a long day and she was going to turn in. She slipped an old T-shirt over her head and knelt beside her bed, closing her eyes to say her prayers. God's purpose was for her to be right where she was and she would face the next day with that thought on her mind. Little did she know that her neighbor was part of His plan.
Kendrick remained in the doorway watching Kaycee disappear into the night. It wasn't until he shivered from a cool breeze that he realized he was not wearing a shirt. With a light curse, he closed the door. His first meeting with his new neighbor showed him she was hot in more ways than one!
He glanced at Tiki's empty bed in the corner and shook his head. Tiki was his daughter Bianca's pampered pooch. Bianca had asked if Tiki could stay for a couple of weeks until she could find a home for her after she'd learned that her son was allergic to the dog. A couple of weeks had turned into a couple of months, and now it was turning into one year. Initially he'd thought it was okay because he didn't want to upset his daughter, who was very attached to the dog, but since he'd started up his own business, his time at home with Tiki had become minimal. The boarding kennel was fast becoming a home away from home for her.
He knew that Tiki was the center of the incident that night. He'd had the same problem with the previous tenants. For some reason, Tiki had a special connection with that property. He'd tried everything from putting her in a kennel to spanking her, but it did no good.